Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says he is ready to go all out in the first Test against the British & Irish Lions after making his return from Covid-19 protocols.
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As the first Test between the Springboks and B&I Lions, looms it is fair to say that tensions have become feverish. The verbal barbs from the tourists’ camp keep coming thick and fast, adding to a series already steeped in drama.
Away from the headlines and the soundbites, the Springboks have quietly been focused on their own preparations. Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and the rest of the coaching staff showed some confidence in naming their Springbok side a day early. That side has been buoyed by the return of regular captain Kolisi.
Many thought Kolisi would not have been fit for the first Test after returning from Covid-19, however, the inspirational flank has passed his return-to-play protocols in time and is raring to go.
“I was lucky I didn’t have a lot of symptoms – I was pretty much fine by the second day. It was all a mental thing: isolating in the room.
“What helped me the most was that I was still part of the team, talking in the meetings and watching the videos and giving input to the guys who were playing the match before.
“That’s what we’re about, just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you’re ‘off’. Your role is to make sure the next guy is as prepared as he can be. Whether you’re playing or not, we want to make sure you’re adding value some way or another.”
The Springbok captain has said that he is looking to go full tilt in the first Test and is not even thinking about the rest of the series. The statement is clear, Kolisi will give until he can give no more.
“I feel good, I’ve prepared in the training sessions. But I know that if it gets to a place where I’m tired and I can’t go anymore, I know my coaches know me and know the signs and will take me off.
“Whether that’s early in the first half or in the second half, doesn’t matter. That’s our code. If you’ve given everything and you can’t give anymore, then someone on the bench can do the same work you can.
“Our coaches are very good at noticing that and making the right subs at the right time. I have full confidence to go as hard as I can and not hold anything back because I know what’s waiting on the bench is just going to turn it up even more.”
The Springboks have named a bench with five forward players and three backs departing from the six-two Bomb Squad split used at the Rugby World Cup. Injuries and Covid-19 disruption have necessitated a rejig of the side, but Kolisi is emphatic his role hasn’t changed.
“My role has always been the same: look after our breakdown. We’ve got natural fetchers in our team, guys who can put their hands into the breakdown and win turnovers – when the opportunity presents itself I can do that, too. But my most important role is to secure our breakdown and put pressure on their breakdown, too.”
Kolisi will pack down with the versatile Kwagga Smith in the back row. Kolisi feels the Smith’s sevens background has turned him into a real breakdown threat and hinted that this may be what was expected of him.
“Kwagga is very good at the breakdown, too. We’ve got a system, we stick to the system. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll get in there but my role is to look after our own ball.”